Our babies just turned one! Actually, their first birthday was at the start of January, but we just got around to celebrating it with family and friends.
(Thank you, hand-foot-and-mouth disease.)
Let’s be real though, the first birthday party is all about family and friends, so it’s okay that we were a little late, right? I mean, will our boys even remember it?
So why celebrate it at all?
Well, because, after their birth, this day was probably the most anticipated day of their young lives.
For us as parents, we were looking forward to officially saying that we made it! We survived! And more importantly, they survived!
For our friends and family, who had supported us throughout the first twelve months (now thirteen), it is all about sharing in the special occasion. And deservedly so.
But as you can imagine, as many things do for first-time parents, planning this day came with a little bit of pressure and expectation.
The biggest question was: do we go big and spare no expense, knowing that a baby only turns one once? Or do we keep it small, and risk under-celebrating and regretting it down the road?
We, of course, went for something right down the middle. The right mix of big and small.
To help keep us on track though – okay, okay… to help keep me on track – we focused the birthday party around a few simple ideas. And in the end, it was perfect!
So, here are my five tips – or should we say guiding principles – for planning a first (or any) kids’ birthday party.
1. Family First
We definitely wouldn’t have made it this far without the love, encouragement, and support of our family and friends, so we used our boys’ first birthday party to really thank them. Though our guest list was larger than what we had initially planned (oh those pre-baby ideals), we immediately recognized how important each and every person was to us and our family. And because we wouldn’t want to celebrate such a huge milestone without them, inviting them all was an easy decision.
2. Quality Not Quantity
Baby cuddles and cuteness aside, the one thing that I was most looking forward to when becoming a Mommy were all the cool birthday cakes and crafts I would get to make. This first birthday party was no exception – and let me just say, it did not disappoint! Like anything baby and/or party though, it’s really easy to go overboard and get over stressed, so I enlisted some help to make sure that we stayed on track and added just enough personality to make the room and event feel special.
Here’s what we focused on – my must-haves:
Having a theme definitely helped unify all of our decorations and personalize the event for our boys. They absolutely love animals so we chose “Woodland Creatures” for their first birthday party.
This was something that I really wanted to make – but because we had a fairly large guest list, we decided to do something a little more practical. Notice how I didn’t say “easier”? We actually planned to have two different types of dessert: A “show” cake to serve as the traditional cake – and one that would appease my creative side – and a set of 60 cupcakes for easy eats and cleanup.
While my husband Shaheed suggested that we make our work as effortless as possible by icing the cupcakes with a single-colour spread and top them with either an A or Z, we went for something a little more theme-inspired and created Owls and Foxes. While it was more work, it was definitely more memorable and made our late – like 2am late – night totally worth it.
Turning 1 is a pretty big deal, so in terms of party decor I really wanted to create something that could share (and capture for future reference) what our boys could do.
After finding a template I liked online, I spent a few nights drawing and customizing each poster to show off our boys in all of their glory. It is a great memory to have, and though this was something I’m sure I could have ordered online, I felt pretty proud of myself for making it.
Display – aka “The Feature Wall”
We didn’t want to go too crazy with decorations so we planned out decor for one feature wall – i.e., the wall that our boys would sit in front during dinner and the official cake-cutting. All of the decorations I’ve talked about so far made up this wall. For us – it felt like the perfect amount. There was a clear and focused space to take pictures and just enough decor to make it feel like a birthday celebration. In addition to the cake, cupcakes, and first year posters, the rest of the wall featured a colourful backdrop, a large “1” weighted helium balloon, and two home-made customized Woodland Creature A and Z blocks.
3. Keepin’ it Casual
We really wanted to have a stress-free birthday celebration and so keeping it casual was pretty high on our list. We decided to have the party at a recreation centre that allowed us to use a gymnasium as well as a multi-purpose room. The large space and play equipment encouraged our guests to move around and to eat or play when they wanted to. A mini theme we came up with was Pizza and Play-mats and that’s exactly what we had. A room to play in and an assortment of pizza’s to choose from. No serving, no mess, and most importantly, no clean up. We were free to play with our kids and mingle with everyone there.
4. Parties are for Playing
I kind of mentioned this one in the last point, but having an area for our kids (and their baby friends) to play in was also something that was really important to us. While we planned this whole party to celebrate them, we needed to remember that they are still babies – or rather toddlers – and they probably would not have enjoyed being held or passed around for three hours straight. So even though not everyone was able to hold, kiss, or cuddle them, they all got to enjoy happy and playful babies because they were free to move around and crawl, climb, and chase things like they love doing.
Just as having the play-mats catered the party to the boys, the last thing we heavily considered was when the party should take place and how it would work with their schedule. Shaheed and I really wanted to make sure that our boys were as happy and relaxed as they could be and the best way to do that was to make sure that we kept to their routine as best as we could during the day. The party was planned for the time between their second nap and bedtime. We also brought along their eating “chairs” and served them snack and dinner at the party. The boys seem perfectly content to eat and play in a new location and didn’t seem to notice or mind the large number of people around them – even when they were blitzed by the paparazzi! We were back home just in time for baths and the boys were sound asleep for the night at their regular bed time. Can I get a hallelujah? – because that is a total win!
Now looking back, I can see what an awesome and memorable party it was not only for us, but for all of our friends and family as well. Kids can be unpredictable at the best of times – something I know only too well – but fortunately, these small ideas went a long way in helping us plan out the perfect party to celebrate our little guys.
Just don’t hold you breath for their 2nd Birthday though, I’m still pretty partied and planned out! 🙂
WATCH: The 1st Birthday Party Take Two